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Dealing with stress in Japan: Are foreigners more stressed than Japanese?

Living in a foreign country is already stressing enough, especially with all the unpredictability, worries and mistakes of a few first years. Life in Tokyo can bring even more stress to a foreigner. It is hectic enough even for the extremely hard-working Japanese, but we foreigners have to factor in the need to learn a new, difficult language, cultural shock, loneliness and isolation of a new expat, in some cases – a career switch, and many more things.

What should we do to get rid of stress? Should we copy Japanese people or find our own, gaijin ways of relaxation? As a foreigner with a Japanese husband, I am still learning to wisely combine both ways. Here is my anti-stress list.

Onsen / bath. We can’t afford to go to the onsen (hot springs) more than once a year, but a nice bath is also very relaxing. Japanese people take it every day, sometimes even twice. You can use different bath salts, but how about trying these pretty “bath pralines” or “bath cupcakes”?Bath pralinesBath cupcakesNature. There are surprisingly many parks and gardens in Tokyo. Although some especially nice and big ones have an entrance fee, there are always places free of charge. For example, Arisugawa or Hibiya Parks.Hibiya ParkShopping. I never need an escapade  that looks like a scene from “Confessions of Shopaholic”. In fact, spending huge amounts of money on boots or skirts would MAKE me stressed out immensely. I’m thinking in terms of window shopping with occasional spending some money when there is something good on sale.Christmas shoppingShopping

Coffee shops. Sometimes all we need to unwind is not an expensive course at a high-end restaurant, and even not a hamburger with lots of cheese. A “third place” between the office and home can be a cozy jazz cafe or your local Starbucks branch. A half an hour of reading or listening to music in a non-smoking place, and I am much nicer to my husband. Beware of drinking too much coffee though!A cup of coffee

Article by Olga Kaneda

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